Glossary of Words You Need To Know About the Scientific Revolution

Child looking through telescope on blackbaord main

The rebirth of knowledge in Western Europe, known as the Renaissance, revolutionalized society. People saw the world in a new way, ancient ideas were reexamined, and knowledge was taken in many new directions. Scientific inventions had many practical effects, transforming society, including helping bring about the Industrial Revolution.  

The Scientific Revolution is associated with many terms. Let’s delve right in.  

Common Scientific Revolution Related Terms In Alphabetical Order 

Age of Enlightenment 

An intellectual movement of European history in the 17th and 18th Centuries emphasizing reason and human development. It worked off and along with the Scientific Revolution to greatly change European life.  Also known as the Age of Reason.


An Ancient Greek philosopher known for his scientific knowledge. His writings served as a basic model for those studying science in the Middle Ages.  


The belief that the movement of celestial objects can explain human affairs. Astrology provided a motivation for the study of astronomy.  


The scientific study of celestial objects such as stars. An astronomer is someone who studies astronomy.  


An astronomer who determined that the sun was the center of the solar system.


A belief in an impersonal God that is the creator of the universe and source of natural laws without intervening in human affairs.  



A theory explaining that knowledge comes from sensory experience. It is a basis for the scientific method that explores nature by experiencing it and seeing how things work.  

Francis Bacon 

An English statesman who played a large part in the development of the scientific method. He is sometimes known as the “father of empiricism.”  

Galileo Galilei 

A scientist in Renaissance Italy, who is often called the “father of modern science.” He got in trouble when his astronomical views clashed with official Church doctrine.  

Geocentric Theory 

A view that the Earth is the center of the solar system. This was the long-accepted opinion, which was influenced by Christian religious beliefs. It also was mistaken.

William Harvey 

An English scientist who studied the circulation of the blood. He helped to promote the study of the human anatomy (body).  

Heliocentric Theory 

A theory stating the sun is the center of the solar system. This is the correct statement of actual reality and inventions such as the telescope helped to prove it to be true.  


A belief in the importance of human development and secular concerns, downplaying the importance of religious and supernatural matters.  

Humor Theory 

A principle in ancient Greek and Roman medicine that there are four bodily fluids (humors): black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood

Issac Newton 

An English scientist who studied the laws of motion and gravity. Newton is fabled to have understood the laws of gravity by watching an apple fall out of a tree.  

Johannes Kepler 

A German astronomer and mathematician. Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, including the elliptical rotation of the planets around the sun greatly influenced Newton.


Instruments that magnify objects such as human cells for easier viewing.  Improvements in lens crafting helped produce better microscopes, allowing scientists to learn about things that previously were unseen by the human eye.  

Natural Law

Rules of the universe that can be determined by human reason. 


An Ancient Roman astronomer who guided medieval astronomy.  Ptolemy had a geocentric view of the solar system.  

Rene Descartes 

A French scientist who used reason to develop his scientific thinking. Descartes used reasoning (“I think therefore I am”) to prove we exist as thinking individuals. 

The Renaissance 

A period of the rebirth of knowledge and learning in Europe.   

Scientific Method 

An approach to obtaining knowledge that uses a careful system of experiments to test scientific theories. A hypothesis (reasoned guess) is tested and if it can be repeatedly proved, it is a scientific fact.

Scientific Revolution 

The name given to the major change that took place in 16th and 17th Century Europe in scientific thought. Scientific views held since ancient times were found wanting based on new discoveries and changing views on how to examine nature.  


Tools used to allow things far away, including in space, to appear much more clear to the naked eye.  Telescopes allowed us to better see and study celestial objects.

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